When politicians are in power too long, they feel a right of entitlement. We have seen this at the national level and now in Oro Valley.
Mayor Satish Hiremath and Council members Joe Hornat, Mary Snider and Lou Waters have become too cozy with their developer campaign contributors. In each election since 2010, special-interest contributions have increased and proved to be the difference in the incumbents’ election, reelection, and fighting off their 2015 recall.
Over the period of 2014 to 2016, six developers contributed $146,000 to the current Oro Valley mayor and council.
These contributions were not given to support Arizona democracy, they were business investments no different than R & D or capital for new equipment. Like all smart investments, they are expected to show a good return. Let’s take a look.
The largest contributor has been HSL Properties, the owner of the Hilton resort and an active apartment builder in Oro Valley. Hiremath has boasted about personally negotiating the EL Conquistador Country Club purchase with HSL, and that he attained the properties for only $1 million.
Since the purchase closed in 2015, the golf courses have lost $6.9 million from golf and restaurant operations. Oro Valley has spent $2.7 million in repairs to the courses and facility and has budgeted another $6 million in repairs over the next two fiscal years.
Meanwhile, HSL is now applying to build a spa at the Hilton, which could allow the Hilton El Conquistador Resort to change from a golf resort to a spa resort now that Oro Valley is stuck with the golf courses.
Next is Vistoso Partners, a contributor that won a 7-0 approval from the Town Council on its request to amend the town General Plan and rezone Big and Honeybee washes to build 400 homes and two access roads into the wash. These washes are the last large open space in Oro Valley and serve as wildlife connectors between the Tortolita Mountains and Catalina State Park.
The Kai family and agent Wexler, both major contributors to the incumbents, just won a 7-0 approval for their Capella project on the west side of La Cholla, where they will add over 500 homes on small lots next to rural residential neighborhoods. Neighboring residents complained at every step in the process, but more than 15 requested zoning changes were granted, and Capella was approved on a 7-0 vote.
Since 2016, there have been 14 requested rezonings or General Plan amendments submitted to the current council; 13 have been approved 7-0 and the other 6-1.
The incumbent finance reports for the first campaign reporting period (April 29 through June 30, 2018) for the Aug. 28 primary tell it all. In this initial round of campaign-finance reporting, Hiremath, Hornat, Snider and Waters raised $56,000 from developers and special-interest contributors. s to keep ” their council” in office. In Hiremath’s case less than 3% or $575 of his $21,430 in funding came from Oro Valley resident supporters.
Challengers Joe Winfield for mayor, Joyce Jones-Ivey, Josh Nicolson and Melanie Barrett for council are self-funding their campaigns and requesting contributions from residents. They will neither seek nor accept contributions from special interests. looking to ”grease the skids” in doing business with the town of Oro Valley.
Eight years of this is enough, and it’s time to change Oro Valley leaders to individuals who will represent residents, not developers and special interests.
So when you get in the booth, vote no to special interests and yes to a team that will represent Oro Valley residents.